Saturday, 3 January 2009

Of Mad Men Season 1

Finally, I've finished Season 1 of Mad Men. I've still got Season 2 left to watch but that'll be on BBC4 soon. I just needed to get a load of shows out of the way in time for the dump that will be happening early next month. It also doesn't look like I'm going to get Damages finished in time. Dammit. Ahh well I'm done with Mad Men for the time being, yay. Although the show is utterly brilliant so I shouldn't act so happy, especially since Season 3 hasn't even been confirmed yet (however really it's an inevitably especially with the amount of awards it's won).

Alright so Mad Men is the latest critical darling of the US. However guess what? This show deserves it. Luckily unlike amazing shows like The Wire and Battlestar Galactica it isn't being snubbed by award shows and this year won the Emmy for Best Drama (which, whilst I'm bias towards Lost, it truly deserved). So what is Mad Men about? Some sort of drama set inside a mental institution? Nope it's actually a show in 60s America and deals with the advertising agencies on Madison Avenue (hence Mad Man). It's a bit like Life on Mars in how it portrays it's period. However there are a few differences. For starters it's not set in England, so no John Simm or Philip Glenister, secondly it doesn't have the same humour as Life on Mars and finally there's no sci-fi element, this is straight up drama. So Mad Men deals with the 60s exceedingly realistically. All the costumes and sets look right. All the props are from the 60s, political references and products that are being advertised are all real products from the era. Then there are also the 60s attitudes.

Mad Men focuses on a very Republican attitude which means we miss out on the liberal hippy movement. Instead we have straight up capitalism, everyone wants money or to save money especially in the advertising game. Then there's the sexism. Jesus Christ, men in the 60s were dicks. All the men are essentially served by the women, women who don't work stay at home, those that do are secretaries. Then there's the fact that they're all sex objects. The men just flirt and sleep with any women they want even if they're married (there are more affairs than I can count in the first season). What's even more shocking is that most of the women actually take it!! This chauvinism is just so blatant that its amazing to think how far we've come in 40 years (and also how little depressingly). The other two overly common things are smoking and drinking. EVERYONE in this show smokes and drinks. Of course this is before all the health warnings and in fact one of the first storylines of the show is how are they supposed to advertise cigarettes now that they can't pay off doctors to say they don't kill. People smoke everywhere and most of the male characters spend most of their work days drinking, when they aren't flirting with secretaries or actually doing work (and even then they've probably got a glass in hand). So it's unsurprising that one of the most memorable scenes shows the adverse affects of alcohol (think Mr. Creosote from Meaning of Life,except not played for as many laughs).

Right massive kudos have to go to Matthew Weiner for creating this show. He used to write for the Sopranos however once that finished he decided to get a script he'd had for seven years made. Thankfully AMC made it (and have no cemented themselves as one of the strongest channels at the moment with two amazing shows) and we got Mad Men. Unluckily I'm a little late however I can still praise Weiner for the adeptness of his writing and making the show feel like the 1960s (I've been regaled with many a tale from grandparents). This show, like the Wire, is a slow burner with overarching stories taking a few episodes to come to fruition however it is well worth the pay off as Season 1 ended with an incredibly strong finale that managed to throw a curve ball by revealing, what is now an obvious plot point, that one of the lead characters is *removed so as not to spoil awesome twist for the people who haven't seen the show*

Finally we need to talk about the acting. Jon Hamm as Donald Draper is incredible. One of those amazing performances where an actor is overshadowed by the character, it might not be Bryan Cranston or Michael C. Hall level of amazingness but it's still a powerful performance. However he is just one actor of an incredible ensemble. Every single actor on the show deserves boundless praise. I can think of only two ensembles on television that come close and they're The Wire and Lost. We have Elisabeth Moss as Peggy Olson, Don's secretary. Vincent Kartheiser as the immensely slimy Pete Campbell (trust me you'll hate and feel sorry for him at the same time). January Jones as Betty Draper, this is seriously one of the strongest female performances to come along in a while and doesn't get enough credit. Christina Hendricks of Firefly fame as Joan Holloway, the sort of office slut except shes smart as a whip. Finally John Slattery as Roger Sterling, another incredible performance (especially in the later portion of the season). Plus that's not even getting into the supporting cast which is just as strong.

So overall Mad Men is a fantastic. If you like you're dramas then you'll love this show. It might not be as perfect as The Wire or as fast paced as Lost but it's a fantastic drama series. 9.5/10

No comments: